A Numbers Game

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When you get late in the season, especially when you are in contention for something, fans always begin scoreboard watching. Actually, some fans scoreboard watch all year hoping that every team in their division lose every game. For me, I started scoreboard watching this week when the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals started playing one another.

The Chicago Cubs fan base was split over who they wanted to win those games. As for me, I was all in for the Cardinals. Reason being, I did not want the Giants to win seven in a row, because I would be pulling hard for them the next series when they played the Pittsburgh Pirates for a four game set. See, while I would love to gain ground on the Cardinals, I would like a little more breathing room against our closes challenger, especially consider we would be going in to face them a week later.

The division, while mathematically still attainable, realistically may be another story. Sadly, I do not see the Cardinals fading or going on a lengthy losing streak which would allow the Cubs to not only catch them, but pass them, not even with the six games they have left with one another. Unfortunately, the Cardinals have pretty much dominated the season series and despite the Cubs great play since the All Star break, I am not so sure that they can sweep the Cards in those six games; which is pretty much what would be needed to win the division.

With the Cardinals loss last night and the Cubs win, they are now 7.5 games out of the division lead. A reasonable number, especially with six games left. The Cubs still have a chance to win, but the odds may not be in their favor.

The Cardinals are currently 77-44 playing at an unbelievable .636 clip. If they go only .500 down the stretch, they would finish with 97 wins. The Cubs who are 69-51 would then need to go 28-14 just to tie them. Possible, very possible considering they are on a 18-5 run since getting swept by the Philadelphia Phillies. But that is completely dependent on the Cardinals going .500; which might be be a task tougher than sweeping them in the six remaining games.

Another number to look at, still way too early to look at this number is the elimination number. Currently for the division, the Cubs elimination number is 35. Any combination of Cubs losses and Cardinal wins that add up to 35 and that’s all she wrote. At most, the Cubs have 21 losses left in them (likely less), which would give them a record of 90-72. A record no one would complain about. That means the Cardinals only have to win 15 more games, giving them a record of 92-70.

I hate math. But at the moment, mathematically speaking the divisional odds are not in our favor.

For now, until a series is the difference, I am focusing on securing the Wild Card. Separate as much as you can on the Giants, gain on the Pirates. Rooted for the Cards to help us put space between us and the Giants, then root on the Giants as they played the Pirates. So far, they have split their two games, and with the Cubs winning their past two, they have gained a game on each. I would be okay with a four game split, even though two more Giant wins to go with two more Cub wins, the Cubs would be one back of the Pirates, keeping four between the Cubs and the Giants for the second Wild Card. But with seven games left with the Pirates (still have a rain out left to be scheduled) I like the Cubs chances of passing them no matter who wins these next two games. I will be happy no matter who wins them, because no matter who does, that helps the Cubs.

In case you are wondering, the Cubs magic number to make the playoffs, is standing tall at 38. The Cubs can go a long way to shrinking that number by taking care of the Atlanta Braves these next two games, cleaning up the rain out mess with the Cleveland Indians and then once again slaying the Giants.

For the record, If the Cubs go .500 the rest of the way,  they will finish with that previously mentioned record of 90-72, to pass them the Giants would have to go 24-16 just to tie them. Yeah, I cannot see the Cubs finishing the season at a .500 clip so good luck with that Giants.

But, we still have a long way to go.

The Cubs have a fairly easy schedule down the stretch with 11 games left against what we would call good teams. Three with Giants, three with the Dodgers, seven with Bucs, six with Cards and one with the Kansas City Royals.

The Cardinals likewise have a fairly easy schedule, minus the six left with both the Cubs and the Pirates to go with three with the Giants.

Pirates have a very similar schedule. They have the remaining two with the Giants, the seven with the Cubs and six with the Cardinals, they also have three left with the Dodgers.

The Giants though might have things a little tougher, especially since they are playing catch up. They two left with the Pirates, then have three with the Cubs, followed by three with the Cardinals (another tough who do you cheer for series right?) and three  left with the Dodgers. That is a brutal stretch, even if they get to coast for the rest of September before meeting up one last time with the Dodgers for four more.

On paper these four teams have a pretty balanced schedule. Still too early to scoreboard watch? I admit, with all the teams we are in the mix with playing one another as much as they are, I will be focusing on the Cubs games, but playing close attention to the other three teams.

But, as the saying goes, as long as the Cubs take care of their business, everything will work out fine.

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